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U.S. hopes to establish national standards for forensic evidence

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Deputy Attorney General James Cole says an effort to standardize forensics investigations nationwide 'strengthens all aspects of our justice system.' AP

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By The Washington Post
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The federal government announced on Friday that it will commit a scientific agency and establish a national commission to tackle recurring concerns about the quality of forensic evidence used in criminal courts across the country.

A new National Commission on Forensic Science will draft proposals for the U.S. attorney general and Justice Department and draw from expert groups led by a Commerce Department science agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the departments announced.

“This initiative is led by the principle that scientifically valid and accurate forensic analysis strengthens all aspects of our justice system,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

The announcement marked the broadest federal commitment to establishing national forensic science standards since the rise of the FBI Laboratory during the last century.

It comes four years after the National Academy of Sciences urged the White House and Congress to remove crime labs from police and prosecutors' control or at least to improve standards for crime labs, examiners and researchers. The academy was responding to a drumbeat of crime lab scandals and hundreds of DNA exonerations over the past two decades.

The new 30-member commission will be co-chaired by Justice Department and NIST officials.

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